Pope blesses eyes of Ohio girl going blind

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Pope Francis speaks to Elizabeth 'Lizzy' Myers, a 5-year-old girl from Ohio, U.S. who suffers from a genetic disease known as Usher syndrome, which leads to blindness and hearing loss, at the end of the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-GIRL, originally transmitted on April 6, 2016.

Pope Francis speaks to Elizabeth 'Lizzy' Myers, a 5-year-old girl from Ohio, U.S. who suffers from a genetic disease known as Usher syndrome, which leads to blindness and hearing loss, at the end of the weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on April 6, 2016. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-GIRL, originally transmitted on April 6, 2016.

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis blessed the eyes of an American girl who suffers from a genetic condition that will make her blind, in a visit to the Vatican described as a “miracle” by her father.

“We came here hoping for some amazing memories for Lizzy … but what we got, we’ve seen several miracles,” said her father, Steve Myers, after Francis’ blessing with 5-year-old Lizzy on Wednesday (April 6).

The Myers family traveled from their Ohio home for the papal blessing, as part of a “bucket list” of experiences they wanted Lizzy to have before she loses her sight. Lizzy suffers from Usher syndrome Type II, which causes loss of hearing and sight, usually during the second decade of life.


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It was after a visit by the family to the Warren Rupp Observatory in Bellville, Ohio, that the world first heard of Lizzy’s condition, after a newspaper there published a story about her. Later, Turkish Airlines offered the family a flight to a destination of the family’s choice.

Christine Myers, Lizzy’s mother, remembered the moment they chose the Eternal City: “When we said we were coming to Rome we told her, ‘That’s where the pope lives.’ She wanted to knock on his door when we got here!”

Lizzy has grown up Catholic and was well aware of the “big guy in the white hat,” as her mother put it. When it came to meeting the pontiff, Lizzy gave him a piece of a meteorite from the observatory she had visited.

The pope blessed Lizzy’s eyes after hearing her story. “He asked us to pray for him and said he would be praying for us,” Christine Myers said.

Steve Myers described the papal meeting as a powerful moment: “As soon as Pope Francis came up to where Lizzy was, a calm came over me. I don’t know how to explain it.”

The Myers family, including Lizzy’s younger sister, Kayla, was supported in Rome by
UNITALSI, an organization that arranges visits for the sick and disabled to Lourdes, the Catholic pilgrimage site in the Midi-Pyrenees region of southwest France.


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During their visit to Italy, the Myerses had time for sightseeing around Rome, including a trip to the Coliseum and the Sistine Chapel. Despite Lizzy’s age, her father said, she was “enthralled by everything she saw” and sat in the middle of the Sistine Chapel staring at the famous Michelangelo frescoes.

Steve Myers also praised Italians for the warm welcome they had received: “We’re awestruck. Not just the meeting with the pope, but the way we’ve been embraced by the Italian people since we’ve been here. It’s made us feel like we’re with family.”

The family has plenty of other attractions on its bucket list. Experiences so far have included simple pleasures such as flying a kite, blowing bubbles and catching fireflies. The family plans to tour the U.S. but is waiting until Lizzy is a bit older.

Lizzy does not yet know she will go blind.

“We want her to lead as normal a life as she can, without her worrying,” said Christine Myers. “One day we’ll have to tell her. I just don’t want that day to come anytime soon.”

The Myers family is aware that given the high profile of the Vatican visit, there is a chance Lizzy could find out about her condition. But having already come across other children living with the condition, Steve Myers said it is worth the risk.

“We feel very strongly that if there’s another parent out there that might (have a child with Usher syndrome), and might not know that they’ll lose the sight, the risk is worth taking,” he said. “I feel that I’ve got so little time to show her so much, I can’t imagine if I had one year.”

(Rosie Scammell is Vatican correspondent for RNS)

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  • Zachary

    What a beautiful story on human experience.

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  • “Lizzy does not yet know she will go blind.”

    Absolutely heartbreaking. There are no words to deal with this.
    We must live for every day and do the best we can to help others in this world. Lizzy is so lucky to have parents who are giving her this gift.

    If a God exists he is wasting his time helping NFL players win ball games and Mississipee Politicians create bigotry against LGBT people – when he should be fixing Lizzy’s eyes and ears instead.

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  • Flaxelaxen

    And sadly yet another family deluded about blessings doing anything. Sadly she will still go blind

  • Mark Moore

    If they and their fellow parishioners invested in science instead of religion they would be much likelier to have a cure for their daughter instead of a blessing. The sciences are starving for funds to research such maladies.

  • Duke

    God can’t fix Lizzy’s eyes. It’s free will: Lizzy is freely choosing to go blind,and God cannot intervene.

  • Fran

    Mark,

    Imperfect men, including scientists, don’t have the power and the love to get rid of every sickness, disease, infirmity, old age and even death, but God does and will: no funds required.

    I am sure that both Andrea Bocelli and Stevie Wonder would appreciate that fact since they have sight to look forward to! And my own twin brother, born with severe Down Syndrome (over 60), who has never uttered a word and doesn’t know who I or he is, will finally appreciate it, as well as me! ❤️?☝️

  • susan

    Oh now now now, you don’t know everything. Sadly she may, but you know its cruel to say she will. Indeed she might not. Blessings might not do anything or they might but there is no way you know everything dear heart. Not possible. Lots of amazing things and horrible things happen in this world. You don’t know. Let’s hope you are wrong.

  • Fran

    Even though blindness may happen to this adorable girl, she has sight to look forward to. Her sight most likely won’t come from any man, but from God, who definitely loves his human family.

  • The family has not expressed any expectation that the child will be cured by the blessing. They feel cared about; that they and their daughter matter to God. Nothing sad or deluded about that.

  • Vicki Beltz

    I have added my prayer to the popes. I believe in miracles because Jesus healed me when I had 3 life-threatening clots in my lungs, and I. have seen others as well.

  • RealityBites

    Oh now now, blessings might heal her, or they might not, She might be healed by random chance, or they might not. So, really, blessings are no better than random chance, and , by random coincidence, or actually one and the same. Of course no one wants bad things like this to happen. But they are part of nature, and some things we have not developed the technology to fix. So, sadly you don’t everything either but there is not one iota of evidence blessings do anything, and so the statement by Flaxlaxen makes much more sense than your misguided optimism. It is not cruel, but an acceptance of what is most probable. At least the parents seem to understand this. You should too.

  • samuel johnston

    Gee Fran,
    If your God has the power to fix things, why does he allow all this suffering?

  • samuel johnston

    Good for you Duke! I might add God has giver Lizzy the gift of original sin.

  • Doug Snyder

    Yeah… never mind that if your god exists ( by the way, he doesn’t ), he is the one who is making her go blind and deaf.

  • Alex

    It isn’t cruel in any way. There is no evidence that a blessing has healed anyone, but there is plenty of evidence of people being blessed and not being healed. One may as well throw a coin in a wishing well.

  • Alex

    The pope and everyone else praying for her to not go blind clearly lack faith in their all knowing God’s wisdom and think they know better.

  • GodSwill

    You don’t know how long your child will have sight for and you do this?

    Hey, let’s go see the human representative of our god and wave as you go blind before you’re 20.

    Where are the miracles here?

    Get Franny to turn the pedophiles over to the police, that’d be a miracle.

  • Fran

    Doug,

    Inherited imperfection and sin is what is responsible for any illness, sickness, disease or impairment any human experiences (Romans 5:12), not God. God will completely do away with those inherited problems so that they never exist again (Revelation 21:3,4).

  • Fran

    Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God gave them and all their descendants, including us, the penalty of death (Romans 5:12). Death was certainly not a gift from God.

    God gave the gift of the life of perfect son, Jesus (who also willfully gave it) and also established a heavenly government to eventually swallow up sin and death forever in the human family. That is God’s true gift of love.

  • Fran

    Samuel,

    Right after Satan deceived Eve, which led to her and Adam disobeying God, God took the first steps to put an end to man’s sin and death by his prophecy at Genesis 3:15, showing his seed, or son, Jesus, would put an end to Satan and Satan’s claim that God’s rule over man was not right.

    Many years later, the prophet Isaiah, confirmed that Jesus would be in Prince of Peace in God’s kingdom or heavenly government (Isaiah 9:6,7).

    Many years later, God’s prophet, Daniel, prophecied that God’s government would put an end to all other governments and stand forever (Daniel 2:44).

    Many years later, an angel appeared to Mary and advised she would have a son, that she should call him Jesus, and that he would rule to time indefinite (Luke 1:31-33).

    Some time later, when Jesus was a grown man, he advised his disciples that they would rule with him according to a new covenant over man on earth (Luke 22:28,29).

  • Fran

    Some time later, the apostle Paul received a vision from Jesus that only 144,000 from earth would be ruling with Jesus in his heavenly government over man (Revelation 14:1), including his faithful apostles.

    Since Pentecost of 36 C.E., God has been making his personal selection of those 144,000 from earth who will be ruling with his son, Jesus, during his millennial rule.

    Since 1914, when God’s kingdom was established in the heavens and Jesus became its King, the good news of God’s government is being preached about in over 200 lands and hundreds of languages. Jesus prophecied that would take place worldwide to the nations before the end of this wicked era comes (Matthew 24:14).

    The meek ones on earth need this good news and the wicked ones need are being warned to change their ways before the end comes.

    God has definitely been involved, throughout man’s history, even since his start, to make all matters right, and at the best time for all parties involved.

  • Fran

    Only Jesus has been assigned by his Father, or God, to judge the righteous and unrighteous (John 5:22), not me.